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By: Robert Janis

TreadLightly!

Tread Lightly! Helps OHV Community Gain Favorable Reputation

Tread Lightly! helped fund the creation of several ATV crossings in Colorado.
Tread Lightly! helped fund the creation of several ATV crossings in Colorado. 

The groups and associations involved with off-highway vehicle recreation complain that the biggest obstacle they have to overcome is gaining more access to land on which OHVers can ride. It has become a problem because some in the OHV community ride on trails without any regard for them or the surrounding lands. They often trash trails and adjacent land, and such action builds up support for groups that are opponents to OHV riding.

One group whose whole existence is to build a favorable reputation for OHV riders is Tread Lightly!

The group was founded in 1985 by the U.S. Forest Service. The purpose was to “. . . help address the rising number of off-highway vehicles on public land,” explained Lori McCullough, Executive Director of Tread Lightly! She added that in 1990 Tread Lightly! transferred to a private sector, non-profit organization.

The mission of Tread Lightly! is to proactively protect recreation access and opportunities in the outdoors through education and stewardship initiatives. “Tread Lightly! is considered to be the signature outdoor ethics messenger for motorized recreation,” said McCullough.

The group is a-political and does not get involved in the political side of issues. “Instead, the group focuses on education, communications, and restoration--which are proven tools to help prevent closures,” said McCullough.

Although the group does not get involved in politics, it does have a Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with most of the public land management agencies including the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land management, National Park Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “This means that they agree to promote our outdoor ethics message as much as possible,” said McCullough. “Also, we are able to work with them to find areas in need of repair, restoration or education, and find funding from donors to help keep these areas open. Tread Lightly! also works hand-in-hand with dozens of city and state governments across the country, especially in regards to education.”

Lori McCullough is Tread Lightly!'s executive director and has been with the nonprofit for 17 years.
Lori McCullough is Tread Lightly!'s executive director and has been with the nonprofit for 17 years.

According to McCullough, Tread Lightly! believes OHV recreation is at a critical crossroad. “With thousands of miles of trails in danger of closure, two issues that Tread Lightly! is immediately addressing are: 1) damage caused by irresponsible or uneducated riders and 2) land managers’ lack of financial resources to keep recreation areas open.

“Tread Lightly! is working to use educational materials, trained volunteers, and print, television, web and radio public awareness campaigns to help educate ATV riders on the best ways and reasons to minimize impact of the outdoors,” continued McCullough. “This not only prevents damage, but also helps improve the image of off-roading to the general public. We are even working in new arenas like Facebook, Myspace, and YouTube.”

Courses and Programs

Tread Lightly! has a number of courses and programs to move forward its agenda. They are:

  • Tread Lightly 101
  • Tread Trainer
  • Restoration for Recreation

“Tread Lightly 101” is an online awareness course that is designed to teach how to minimize one’s impact on the outdoors. The course includes flash technology, audio voiceovers, knowledge checks, and interactive scenarios to teach the Tread Lightly! principles as well as show how to apply them in real-world situations. Each person who completes the course is automatically entered to win such gear as a Coleman event tent, a Coleman road trip party grill, a Tread Lightly! six-pack cooler, and a Tread Lightly! decal. The course can be taken online at the Tread Lightly website (www.treadlightly.org).

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